Billy Graham was holding a Crusade in Seattle when multi-millionaire Howard Hughes died. That evening Billy left his audience with a colossal teaser: “Come tomorrow night, and I’ll tell you how much Howard Hughes left.”
The next night the Kingdome was packed. The newspapers were full of speculative articles about how much Hughes was worth. Billy implied that he had inside knowledge. As soon as the song service was over, he gave the crowd the answer as promised.
“Howard Hughes left it all!”
The moral of that story is that we, too, will someday leave it all.
The purpose of this book is to provide a resource for when, where, and how to dispose of that “all,” whatever our “all” is.
Each generation, it seems, is more materialistic than the one that preceded it. We’re constantly bombarded with cute slogans encouraging us to acquire more: “Shop Till You Drop.” “Buy Till you Die.” “Spend To The End.”
We earn, buy, make, accumulate, acquire, bank, cache, collect, amass, gather, get, glean, garner, inherit, keep, maintain, nest-egg, obtain, preserve, procure, save, squirrel, stack, stash, stockpile, store up, stow, and hoard as if there were no tomorrow. We’re a nation of pack rats. No wonder the storage unit business is booming!
Where will it all end? It will end when we either personally make the decisions about what to do with it all, or when someone has to make those decisions for us.
For some, the resolve to reverse the accumulation process comes when they realize they aren’t free to retire and enjoy life. One day they come to the realization that it’s not they who own their possessions, but their possessions that own them. They’ve become locked into a life of caring, feeding, cleaning, maintaining, mowing and repairing.
Many a retiree has discovered that less is more. Less stuff to clean and maintain equals more time for other interests. Time and freedom, they discover, are commodities as valuable as a house full of belongings.
Some seek to use their retirement years to become snowbirds and spend their winter months in a better climate, or to travel, take up new interests and attempt to make the most of, and enjoy, what’s left of life. This option frequently begins with major material downsizing. Some take the leap to move out the family homestead and into a condo or town house, hit the road in a motor home or 5th wheeler, sail the world in a yacht or sailboat, or to move to Florida or Arizona. Not all are capable of accomplishing this purpose, but many of the suntanned set that have taken up the gypsy life have done so and love it. The only hill they’re over is the hill of amassed “stuff.”
Once the kids are grown and gone, a big house with an accumulation of belongings is a huge responsibility. A man may retire from his job, but a woman can never retire from hers if she lives in a house full of possessions either she can’t bear to part with, or isn’t allowed to dispose of.
The answer, if wanting to stay in the family home, is to simplify: move into or utilize a smaller portion of it, or share it with children and their families (think twice and then thrice about this option) or with friends. That’s one way to stay in “this old house” with someone else doing the maintenance. Still others go to live with their children in their homes. All these options have one thing in common. All require getting rid of a great deal of “stuff.”
Still others decide to enjoy retirement by selling their homes and moving to one of the many nice active adult communities, retirement homes, assisted living centers, or active senior living arrangements and lifestyles. The common denominator they usually share is that someone else handles all the responsibilities of building maintenance, lawn care and, frequently, even cooking and cleaning. These moves, too, generally require disposing of part or all of entire households of goods and personal effects.
Then there are those who marry, or remarry, late in life and must combine two households, or those who decide to sail off into the sunset in style, on a live-aboard yacht or sailboat. For every “down-sizing” for an unhappy reason, there are dozens of joyous ones! A surprising number of retired seniors take up second careers as missionaries and sell their homes to finance their ministry.
For many, it isn’t a matter of wanting to downsize, it’s a matter of financial survival. They’re being eaten alive by ever-escalating property taxes, gargantuan utility bills, astronomical medical bills, and skyrocketing insurance premiums. These all hit about the same time the house starts showing its age and needing many expensive repairs, upkeep and remodeling. Many sadly find that owning their home free and clear doesn’t bring the financial relief they thought it would. The appreciated real estate values also mean inflated taxes and the tax bills alone can amount to more than they used to spend on just mortgage payments.
The sad fact is, these days, many seniors just get taxed out of their homes.
Another reason many seniors “down-size” is control. They want to be the ones who decide what becomes of their belongings, rather than have it decided for them. They believe it’s better to make lifestyle changes when they want to and are able to, rather than wait until they must. They go into the process with a positive attitude, focusing on the benefits the change will bring. Seeing their goods fully used, enjoyed and appreciated by the new recipients of their choice gives them a tremendous sense of satisfaction, rather one of loss.
And finally, remember the old story about the fellow who asked three people when life begins?
The first answered, “at conception.”
The second answered, “at birth.”
The third answered, “when the dog dies and the kids leave home.”
To which many retirees would add, “and when we sell the house and we leave too.”
The bottom line? Good-bye “stuff.”
Seniors aren’t the only ones who may be forced to dispose of a house full of goods. It happens to younger people too, through:
o Marriage and the need to consolidate two households
o Inheritance of a house full of someone else’s goods
o The sudden loss of a loved one
o The unexpected loss of a job
o Moving “back home” with parents
o Moving overseas
o Caretaker responsibilities finished
o The decision to travel extensively
o The desire to live more simply
o The necessity to reduce clutter
o The need to get out of debt
o Going into the military
o Getting a new job across country, and no money to move.
o Owning rental property and having a renter vacate, leaving all their belongings.
o The arrival of a baby, which frequently requires “making room” by getting rid of the Chippendale lest it become chipped-all-over.
Moving companies base charges on weight and bulk, and it’s frequently cheaper to sell heavy household goods rather than to move them. Belongings can always be replaced at the other end through shrewd shopping involving the used furniture and appliance ads, auctions, garage sales and thrift stores.
Of course there are many people who don’t dispose of their possessions, or who postpone the decision too long. It’s hard to make the arrangements from a nursing home, and more difficult still to make them from the great beyond. This book is for both those who handle the job themselves or those who must do the job for others.